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Bridgestone Pays $28 Million In Bid Rigging and FCPA Case

Bridgestone Corporation will plead guilty and pay a $28 million criminal fine for its role in conspiracies to rig bids and bribe foreign officials, the DOJ said today.

Tokyo-based Bridgestone was charged in a two-count criminal information filed in federal court in Houston.

The maker of marine hose and other industrial products was charged with conspiring to violate the Sherman Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

It conspired to rig bids, fix prices, and allocate market shares of marine hose in the U.S. and elsewhere.

It was separately charged with conspiracy to bribe government officials in Latin America to obtain and retain business, the DOJ said. The conspiracies started in 1999 and continued until 2007.

Marine hose is used to transfer oil between tankers and storage facilities.

Bridgestone authorized and approved bribes by local sales agents to employees  at state-owned entities in Latin America, the DOJ said. Those employees are considered ‘foreign officials’ under the FCPA.

The DOJ has charged five companies with antitrust violations in the case. Nine individuals have also been convicted and sentenced to prison.

The only other FCPA count in the case was against Misao Hioki, a Japanese citizen who was the  general manager of Bridgestone’s international engineered products department. He was sentenced to two years in prison in 2008 after pleading guilty to antitrust and FCPA conspiracies.

Bridgestone faced a penalty up to $100 million for conspiring to violate the Sherman Act and $500,000 for the FCPA conspiracy or, for both counts, twice the gain derived from the crimes or twice the loss suffered by the victims.

The DOJ said it agreed “to recommend a substantially reduced fine” of $28 million because of Bridgestone’s cooperation.

The company helped the DOJ by ‘conducting a worldwide internal investigation, voluntarily making employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing and providing to the [DOJ] voluminous evidence and information.’  Bridgestone also received credit for ‘restructuring the relevant part of its business, terminating many of its third-party agents and taking remedial actions with respect to employees responsible for many of the corrupt payments.’

Bridgestone Corporation’s ADRs trade in the U.S. over the counter in the pink sheets under the symbol BRDCY.PK.

View the DOJ’s September 15, 2011 release here.

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